High School Football:
Saturday, November 21, 1998
By Vincent Lewis Jr.
Who said high school football was not exciting and full of surprises? In a contest with the Shawnee Renegades at the Cherokee Chiefs, the second half of this game proved to be the most exciting half for the home crowd. Finally getting something to cheer about and keeping themselves warm, the crowd watched the Chiefs try to erase a 22 point deficit. But the Renegades defense came up big and held off Cherokee for a 22-15 victory in a South Jersey Group 4 semifinal game.
The Renegades were just at Cherokee two weeks ago and remembered the beating they took, losing 21-7. With that in mind, Shawnee did what every visiting team hopes to accomplish - getting that early lead and holding on to it. With the cold and windy conditions, Shawnee put up 15 points in the first quarter. Mike Connelly took the snap and scored on a 2-yard run. He also converted on the 2 point attempt and the Renegades gained that early 8-0 lead. With 3:42 still remaining in the first quarter, Mike Curcio completed the second scoring drive with a 4-yard run. The extra point was good.
Again, the advantage for the visiting team, especially the underdog, is to score early and often. When the winds knocked down a punt attempt and gave the Renegades excellent field position, Shawnee moved the ball to another score. With 11:23 remaining in the half, the Renegades went up 22-0 after Connelly's second touchdown of the day. The Chiefs were down big. But in a playoff game like this, you would get the feeling this game was not over yet.
The Chiefs star runningback Doug Easlick came out of the locker room pumped up and ready to play football. Shawnee was shut down on their opening series. Now, with the crowd getting something to cheer about, the Chiefs did not disappoint them. After a couple of defensive penalties, Cherokee kept the drive alive and finally got on the scoreboard. Easlick scored on a 6-yard sweep left with 4:54 remaining in the quarter. Quarterback Chris Spina completed the 2 point conversion to Shawn Devece.
With the final quarter now underway, the Chiefs went to the passing game with much success. Spina moved the offense down into the red zone of the Renegades. He eventually scored on a 4-yard run, and the Chiefs were down just 22-15 with 10:25 remaining in the game. Cherokee managed to keep Shawnee off the scoreboard for the rest of the game. Now they needed a score to tie or win. As the clock ticked down, Cherokee got a chance to score a touchdown. But an interception by Joe Phillips with seconds remaining sealed the victory for the Renegades. Shawnee will meet Overbrook in the Group 4 finals.
Photos by Art Redd
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